WENDELL — Joe Edwards and Austin Boyette have been fishing for as long as they can remember, but last month they reeled in one of the most significant catches of their young angling careers.
On Oct. 12, the recent East Wake graduates competed as a two-man team in the Student Angler Federation’s Southeastern Conference Championship at Lake Lanier near Gainesville, Ga. Edwards and Boyette tied for third place with five fish weighing in at 11 pounds, 4 ounces.
“It was a really cool experience,” said Boyette. “I enjoy competition, and to combine fishing with it – that’s pretty fun. It felt good to be up there with the best in high school. To know that we did good was a pretty good thing.”
It was a tight race to determine a winner; Edwards’ and Boyette’s catch fell just six ounces shy of the first-place weight. The boys weren’t too bummed over the narrow defeat, though. Having the chance to represent North Carolina in a regional tournament was a rewarding experience in and of itself.
“I like to be competitive when I fish,” Edwards said, naming several other tournaments in which he and Boyette have competed, such as the Bojangles Pro-Am Team Tournament.
In order to qualify for the regional tournament in Georgia, the duo first had to win the North Carolina Student Angler Federation’s state championship, which was held at Kerr Lake in Henderson in April. In that tournament, superior preparation and exceptional teamwork helped Edwards and Boyette emerge victorious.
“We had pre-fished it the past two weekends before, so we had a really good idea of where the fish were,” Boyette said of the state tournament’s location. “We got on ‘em pretty early, and we caught five fish. Toward the end, we felt like we needed another fish, and we got it. We ended up winning by almost a pound, I believe.”
Edwards claims that Boyette is the “brains” behind their competitive fishing operation. But once on the water, the two feed off each other.
“We both have pretty much the same idea if we feel like something’s not working,” Boyette said of the team’s chemistry. “Generally, I’m the first one to be like, ‘Hey, let’s change it up to this,’ or ‘You throw this bait and I’ll throw another bait, and we’ll see which one works.’ ”
That connection has helped Edwards and Boyette adapt quickly to several unfamiliar situations, including one they faced at the regional tournament.
“We caught all spotted bass, which I had never caught before,” Boyette said, describing the unique circumstances at Lake Lanier. “They were a lot of fun to catch. And once you found one fish, you found about 20.”
For now, the competitive fishing duo has been put on hold, as Boyette attends North Carolina State and Edwards is enrolled at Wake Technical Community College.
The two have plans to reunite at State sometime down the road, where they hope to compete with the university’s Basspack fishing club – which has claimed three national titles in the past decade.